Signet Jewelers Ltd. Rebounds on Earnings, but Major Scandal Remains

By Motley Fool Staff Markets Fool.com

In this segment fromMarket Foolery, Chris Hill and Bill Barker cover the latest developments atSignet Jewelers (NYSE: SIG). Its fiscal 2017 fourth quarter results pushed the stock higher, a small consolation for investors after the Washington Postreported on widespread allegations of sexual harassment at the company.

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The CEO sits at the center of the scandal though he has yet to address it publicly. With a class action lawsuit looming, what lies ahead for the company, and its stock?

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on March 9, 2017.

Chris Hill: Let's move on toSignet Jewelers, which is the parent company ofZales.

Bill Barker:Youhaven't beaten up on them in days.

Hill:Well, stay tuned.Kay JewelersandJared. Fourthquarter sales were a little light due to falling comps. Shares of Signet, though, up a little more than 8% this morning, and I'm assuming that is in part because the stock has been beaten down, most recently in the wake of theWashington Poststory about allegations of years of rampant sexual harassment in the workplace, along with terrible wage disparities, as well. CEO Mark Light continues to maintain his silence.

Barker:Yes. I think --

Hill:CEO Mark Light, who is one of the people who is being accused of all of this.

Barker:Right. And you've covered that. Sometimes we just focus on what's going on today with the stock, we're covering this as news, the news today is the numbers that have come out, and they were fine. And I think, given the beating the stock has taken, they're not giving quarterly guidance, but they do give annual guidance, and for fiscal year 2018, the company has put out $7.40 a share of earnings per share. That's their guidance. And the stock, even after going up today, trading at around $70 a share. So, a little bit less than a P/E of 10, which is attractive in this market. And I think that is the reminder that, as much as, maybe, this isn't the right CEO for this company, they've got a business that has good earnings power, mall-based though it may be. Same store sales have declined 4.5% for the quarter, and they're guiding to low-to-mid single digit same store sales declines next year. So, they'relooking at the same sort of factors that I and I'm sure other people have been talking about again and again for mall-based companies. Bake all that in, they're still trading at a significantly below market multiple, and that'sattractive today.

Hill:I'm curious to see what happens to this companyin three months, because, again, no indication from the company, nothing in either their statement and, as best I can tell, on their conference call this morning, there was no talk of the allegations against them in terms of the corporate culture. I'm curious to see what this company's report looks likein three months. If they really take a hit on sales in any significant way, as you say, from a stock standpoint, this is a pretty attractive stock. This is a business that is not going away because, as you and I have talked about before, we all still agree to go along with the notion that diamonds are incredibly valuable because they are incredibly valuable. At least, that's the circular logic. And, kind of like we've seen in other businesses at other points in time, yeah, you take Mark Light out of the CEO office and you put someone else in there, and you address the corporate culture issue head-on, then all of the sudden this becomes a more attractive business, I think, and potentially a more valuable one.

Barker:Yeah,I haven't followed it closely enough to comment on the degree to which management may be holding things back here. Obviously, the headlines are quite damaging, and that is a problem, and that's going to be a distraction for this management team. Theyneed to address the situation there. In the absence of doing that effectively, they're going to lose some customers. And why not? There are plenty of other places that sell the same thing and don't have the same clouds hanging over them. So, it's a brand-damaging thing, although we'll see to what degree consumers stay away.

Hill:And just to remove Signet Jewelers from the equation completely, this situation is playing out with another company which is currently private, and that'sUber. I got the chance to interview Michael Lewis yesterday. That interview is going to run onMotley Fool Moneythis weekend, and one of the things we talked about was Uber, and you just look at the way that TravisKalanick, the CEO, is repeatedly shooting himself in the foot, and you think, "If they can get a CEO in there who'sready for the public markets, that's a business that becomes more interesting and potentially more valuable."

Barker:True, possibly. He has, probably, a bigger claim to the success of Uber, which is phenomenal, than the CEO that Signet has. I think this may be a hiccup for Uber. And everything is multiplied so much by, one, there is damaging video for him, and that always makes things five times as bad. You have, how many claims in the Signet lawsuit?

Hill:Oh, it's upwards of 70,000.

Barker:Right. But you don't have the video. But you don't have the video.

Hill:Not yet.

Barker:One video would make this a bigger news story than those 70,000 class action claimants. So, that's one of the reasons that we're more aware of the Uber problems. And, it's just a more high profile thing. I think that it's a good time to be private for Uber.

Bill Barker has no position in any stocks mentioned. Chris Hill has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.